Poetry by Ashley Colley

Art by Joe Steinman



from The Cow Suit



True there are limits  

My room, its slats, last edges
of sleep, the pink crease  
where dream and dawn meet  

Dawn’s reach, thinnest gold 
grasses, dimmest shrub, blackest tree   
past the wood’s black, what I can imagine  

How far I could widen the slats, inch forward 
in halves, divide room into room till the room cracks 
to make room, push an eye through the gap pull the skins back  

They seem seamless but even the cows spill gray shapes from their sides 
even the shade finds relief in dark grooves, in the deepness in things that moves 
as light moves over the field believing each line, each turn, every arrived-at ending





The game is costume or not a costume  

Each day, fresh sights appear between the slats  

Some move synchronously and others off-beat and that one not at all  

Who among them does not belong?  

It is hard to grasp, but almost always I spy a loose thread 
or tag snagging an ear  

Every sight has a secret stairwell so it seems  

In here it is all false buttons and knobs  
so possibly the stairs lead to nothing  

Mom comes home, sheds her work clothes and disappears  

At dawn she departs, trailing threads I dare not grasp  

Still I cannot contain myself when the sights refresh daily  

The vibrant blip, and swap places with the dull   

It pops open my snaps!  

It maddens, to wonder who among them does not belong  

If one could have a secret in another room  






Like the dandelions—  

One stares at the sun and becomes it  

Strains each featherish ray   
till all the field gawks skyward  

The day appears, twitching invisibly as I twitch   
dawn to daybreak, noon to highest noon  

I eye these hundred suns  
fattening the field with milkish sap—  

One gets carried away, whites out   
one’s eye—starry ball bursts   

Starry bloom—sky upon sky  
it unravels, clouds dispersing   

Like bird swarm, even dusk   
comes wearing my star-scattered hide 





Lately Mom has been attracting flies 
standing stock-still on the green  

From a distance you’d think she’s unfeeling  

But when her figure reels into the foreground  
you can see them twitching her skins  

I love to see Mom up close covered in flies 
twitching her skins in small spasms  

They swarm her watery eye, buzzing green  
on its surface  

I imagine them swarming my own eye  
and my ears flick in soft rhythms  

It’s like Mom’s face is on mine, humming 
shivery songs  

I could watch as Mom spasms for days  
humming along with her face  

But the longer I gaze, the louder the swarm 
in my eye  

The flies, brash beads that flash  
eyes just like Mom’s  

Floating on each, the green 
curved at its edges and gleaming  

Ashley Colley’s poems have appeared in Orion, Colorado Review, jubilat, Prelude, Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Memphis.